Next month my family and I are moving to the Upper West Side. We know we are going against the flow, and so many people have asked us why we are doing it. My first post discussed why we initially chose to live in the suburbs. My second post explained what we learned about ourselves and our own preferences from living in Riverdale. This third and final post is about our decision to make the leap to living in the City.
Leaving Riverdale has been a tough decision. We tried to buy our apartment but could not reach a deal with the developer. We thought about buying an apartment in a similar building nearby, and we came very close to making an offer for that, too, but ultimately we decided against it, at least for now. Who knows, perhaps the challenges of living in the City will be too much for us and we’ll be back.
I already discussed the great things we loved about Riverdale in the last post. The main problems with Riverdale are twofold. First, as mentioned at the outset, it is far from Manhattan’s CBD, and even further from Jersey City. It really does take me a very long time to get to work no matter how I go. Cycling makes the commute more palatable, but the fact remains that I spend over 2 hours of every work day neither at work nor with my family. Sure, I’m getting exercise, but there are some days that I would readily give up the exercise to be able to spend a bit more time at home.
Plenty of people in the New York metro area have long commutes, and they deal with it. We would probably choose to deal with it, too, if we absolutely loved the community. But the other major issue with Riverdale is that it is transient. [Granted, the UWS is transient as well, but I’m just explaining why it may not be worth the long commute for us.] Already one family we became close with has moved on (to San Francisco), and another plans to leave imminently (to Israel). Many other casual acquaintances have moved on to Westchester, New Jersey, or Long Island. Also, for whatever reason, and despite the best efforts of some really nice families, we found it hard to get to know a wider range of people.
Finally, the last reason we are leaving Riverdale is the draw of the City itself. Unlike most young families in Riverdale, we’ve never lived on the Upper West Side. I always simply assumed living in the City was undesirable, but was something people did because they had to, either because of work or because that’s where all the post-college singles go to meet their mate. Growing up in Brooklyn and commuting into Lower Manhattan for school as a teenager, I acquired many stereotypes about the city. Too crowded, too polluted, too dangerous, and too expensive.
Living in Riverdale we’ve had the opportunity to visit the City quite regularly. I mean technically you could walk to Manhattan, and we did (once). It turns out not all of Manhattan is quite so crowded. Lower Manhattan sure is, with its super-tall skyscrapers and narrow jumble of streets, but the Upper West Side is not too crowded. It’s also not very dangerous any more. In fact, recent studies show that living in Manhattan is safer than living in the suburbs (!) when you account for traffic deaths. It is also healthier. Despite the pollution, life expectancy is actually higher in the City! This is mostly due to all the walking and cycling City people do, whereas suburban folk just drive everywhere. As for too expensive, yes, it is very expensive. In fact, as more people wake up to the advantages of city living over the suburbs, it has only gotten more expensive. You can’t have it all, I guess.
In essence, the final reason we are moving to the City is curiosity. We know there will be challenges. It will be hard to squeeze a family of four into a 1280 square foot two-bedroom apartment. As little time as we already spend at home watching TV and such, we’ll be forced by the cramped conditions to spend even more time outside our apartment, whether we feel like it or not. It will be hard to trudge through the snow for shopping errands in the winter (although we could just rely on Amazon and Fresh Direct). Who knows, maybe when confronted with the challenges one faces living in the City we will react the same way so many others have and we’ll change our minds. Or maybe we’ll love it and never want to leave. Ultimately, we just don’t know unless we try.